By Frank Gale
The Vols have a chance to end the month on a positive note with South Alabama making their first appearance on Rocky Top. What appears to be a break in the schedule might not be exactly what it seems. The Jaguars are fresh off a win over Western Kentucky and are celebrating back-to-back wins for the first time since November of 2011. Add to that, being seen in 33 states on the SEC Network, and it is easy to see why the folks from Mobile will play with plenty of passion tomorrow.
The friendlier confines of Neyland Stadium will be a welcome sight for the road weary Big Orange after playing both Oregon and Florida on the road. Despite the Jaguar’s recent success, the Vols’ size up front should control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball where the game will be ultimately won or lost.
The Vols are still looking for the quarterback who can take this fledgling offense and get it going. Last week, the Nathan Peterman experiment at the Swamp was a disaster of monumental proportions. Not only did it see Justin Worley return to take the helm of the offense, but Peterman injured his hand which will keep him out of action for at least a month. Worley was semi-effective as a relief quarterback, but the score does not reflect the dominance that the Florida defense had over Tennessee in the first half.
Worley is slated to start tomorrow with one or both freshman backing him up. Hopefully, Worley will be more like the person we saw who entered the game last week and less like the slow starter from previous appearances. With only the talented, but untested two true freshmen quarterbacks as back ups, Worley will be given every chance by Butch Jones to keep his starting job.
The defense has made a few mistakes that have been very costly in the past two games. They will be facing a team tomorrow that has two mobile, interchangeable quarterbacks. Containing them is critical for the defense to get off the field on third downs, something that has been lacking for them lately.
The Vol defense had their way in their last home game against a Sun Belt opponent, Western Kentucky. Adding to their eight interceptions this season and possibly helping the offense with another defensive score certainly would be welcomed by the offense.
This would be a good week to make the trip to Knoxville for those who don’t get to games on a regular basis. The Vols are always appreciative for the help they get from the 12th man in the stands. The Vol Walk is an early one starting at 9 a.m. CDT with kickoff slated for 11:21 a.m. CDT.
The Vols will be featured on ESPNU next Wednesday at 4 p.m. CDT. The show will take viewers behind the scenes for a look at the Volunteer football program, complete with scenes inside the new facilities. Maybe someday Jim Butler will get a chance to watch one of these documentary shows on the Vanderbilt football program, but I doubt they would do it for such a small audience.
The game tomorrow on paper looks to be an even match up; however, the Vols are at home and the statistics might be a bit skewed, when you are comparing the Jaguars opponents with two nationally ranked foes for the Vols.
The Vols are heavy favorites and should be able to avoid an upset by the ‘spotted felines’ tomorrow. Then it is back to the grind of three more nationally ranked teams after a bye week. The good news is that two of those teams will be coming to Knoxville. The bad news, they are currently-ranked in the AP Polls as No.12, No. 9, and No. 1.
Tomorrow, Tennessee should celebrating leaving September with a winning record. The chances for the upsets and signature wins will come later. Go Vols!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)